How I Grew My Side Hustle To $2.5K/Month
This is a follow up story for Freelance Cake. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Austin L. Church. I'm a brand consultant and business coach. I lead a small branding studio called Balernum. We demystify the branding process for founders and help them confidently build authentic brands their audiences love. We work primarily with e-commerce and DTC startups.
Meanwhile, I teach about the predictable path to six-figure freelancing at AustinLChurch.com and help ambitious freelancers through that process in a group coaching program called Founder Cake. The DIY option is my course, Freelance Cake.
This is still my side hustle. I did beat last year’s course and coaching goal of $25,000, and revenue averaged out to $2,500 per month.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Last year, I did significant block and tackle work, which included an overhaul of AustinLChurch.com. Phew. It was a bear. The UI/UX of the old site was getting on my nerves. My target audience had shifted. The site made it hard, not easy, for people to access my best stuff. Leading clients through this process is my job, but boy was it a slog doing it for myself!
The effort has paid off though. The new offer on the homepage is converting at 5-6%, depending on the week. Feedback from students has confirmed what I hoped: This free course is better than a lot of the paid stuff out there.
The business is growing, and case studies are rolling in.
My new coaching clients have been finding me through referrals, free workshops, and podcast interviews.
So I’m ramping up free workshops and outreach to podcast hosts. Also, I’m training my team to help me put out more blog posts and up my game on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has surprised me. It’s more fun to show up there than I anticipated. The discipline of posting five times a week (and staying within the 700 character limit) has been good for a guy who struggles with, brevity.
I launched the beta of Founder Cake Bootcamp in late January, and wow, it has been fun and fulfilling. The first cohort has gelled even better than I hoped. They’re getting wins left and right, and the abbreviated timeframe (six weeks) and format have proven to be very effective for helping everyone move past analysis paralysis and launch the dang thang (whatever that week’s thang is) already.
My writer and social media manager and my “assistant” coach provide support for coaching clients between the group calls. That has freed me up to onboard two new VAs, and finally fine-tuning the processes and content engine—something I’ve dreamed about for years.
We still keep the Instagram lights on, but until I have more time to devote to Stories, the growth there will be flat. I’ve been making more videos, and those at-bats will benefit the business on multiple fronts: LinkedIn, product launches, and even Zoom call. Eventually, I won’t be an awkward, washed-out gargoyle with echo-y audio. Or at least a boy can dream.
I mean, just look at this guy - Is he doing an Elvis impersonation?!
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I’m not comfortable in front of a camera, but I can learn. Learning will take some time. Thankfully, my long-term success doesn’t ride on any one piece of content anyway. I can fail 70% of the time and still have a .300 batting average. That would put me in the Hall of Fame. Did I hit a few home runs last year? Yes. I had my first paid speaking gig and hooked up several exciting partnerships. Still, I’m focused on right-sizing my goals, consistently hitting singles, and earning my next at-bat. The home runs will come on their own.
This quote from former Automattic CEO Toni Schneider has helped me to stop overthinking so many small decisions: “Make reversible decisions quickly, and irreversible decisions, deliberately.” In the past, I was worried about making the wrong decisions, so I would let unmade decisions pile up. This created a mental drag that sucked at my momentum. Now, I ask, “Would this decision be easy or hard to undo? And would making the “wrong” decision all that costly?” This simple rubric has enabled me to confidently make more decisions, more quickly, and get traction faster. No more pile-up. Less anxiety.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
It’s a joy to help freelancers and consultants do more of the work that brings them more joy and more money too. Now, I need to scale.
If you're struggling today, do a good thing and ask for help. If you do not ask for help, you deny someone the joy of helping.
My goal for the next twelve months is to double my email subscribers, double course and coaching revenue, and finish my book manuscript. Long term, I want to help 1,000,000 freelancers make $100,000 doing work that doesn’t feel like work. That’s how I’ll maximize my own positive impact.
Meanwhile, I’m excited about doing more silly writing and creative projects with no immediate commercial value whatsoever. I loved to draw long before I loved to write, so maybe I’ll play around with painfully funny freelance cartoons. I’ve got a prayer book for creatives and several more children’s picture books in me too.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
James Clear’s Atomic Habits was an important read for me. Here’s a salient quote: “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your identity” (pg 38). Clear takes the monolithic idea of HABITS and breaks them down into an accessible system. I believe the book will bring hope to many people. It already has.
Andy J. Pizza’s Creative Pep Talk podcast always puts a smile on my face. His short Find Your Style: Five Exercises to Unlock Your Creative Identity course on Skillshare was a ton of fun. I learned that I like reluctant heroes—maybe I feel like one myself?—and stories with redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. Andy J. makes brilliant help connections and his abundant silliness makes learning a pleasure.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Maybe you’ve never read the New Testament from the Bible. Check out the fishing story in John 21. Jesus tells some of his disciples, who don’t yet recognize him, to fish on the other side of the boat. Sometimes, we’re this close to a sustainable business model. An abundant catch is within reach. But something about our approach is off. Usually, our business model doesn’t give us leverage. For example, my coaching clients give me rave reviews, but one-on-one private coaching isn’t scalable. Even a handful of coaching sessions in a single day can be exhausting. What about group coaching married to pre-recorded training? That model is the other side of the boat. It gives me much more leverage. So ask yourself, “What is the other side of the boat for my business and me?” You may be closer to a leveraged business model than you realize.
If you find it difficult to get that kind of perspective on your own, grab a business confidante or reach out to me. Two of my business partners once called me “too independent.” I was slow to ask for help, and I slowed my progress. The opposite has proven true as well: When I am quick to ask for help, I accelerate my progress. And people love to help. I mean it. Go research the science. Or read The Paradox of Generosity by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson. If you're struggling today, do a good thing and ask for help. If you do not ask for help, you deny someone the joy of helping.
You’d help other people, right? It’s okay to ask.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I just hired two amazing virtual assistants in the Philippines, so I’m not looking to make any more hires in the near term unless just the right person came along and forced my hand.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Freelance Cake has provided an update on their business!
About 2 months ago, we followed up with Freelance Cake to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
About 1 year ago, we followed up with Freelance Cake to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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